Haims: As our economy reopens, let’s all be careful
Across the globe, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, we will be creating a “new normal.” For many years to come, the social and business impacts of the pandemic will affect our lives. However, it is up to each one of us to assist in shortening the duration and severity of these impacts.
In Denver, Mayor Michael Hancock has extended the stay-at-home order until May 8. He believes that the city is not yet ready to reopen and has expressed concerns that COVID-19 testing, antibody testing, and contact tracing must be more readily available not only within Denver, but the state as a whole. As of Monday, people living in Fort Collins will have to don a face mask in all public buildings, retail establishments, and indoor places where people are unable to maintain 6 feet of social distancing.
Here in our community, the stay-at-home order has been transitioned to a guideline of “safer at home.” So, what’s the difference? According to the state’s website, “Under the Safer at Home order, there is more flexibility for businesses to open if they are following Social Distancing Requirements. There also is more flexibility for consumers — except for seniors and other vulnerable populations to get goods and services they desire, and for employers to begin bringing employees back to the workplace as long as they follow social distancing guidelines and wear a cloth face covering.”
When the stay-at-home order was imposed, the purpose of it was to not only halt the spread of the virus but also to contain and identify where the coronavirus had spread. Additionally, the stay-at-home order helped our medical systems by giving them time to build hospital capacities, acquire personal protective gear, ventilators, and train additional medical personnel.
Now that we have successfully flattened the curve, Gov. Polis is attempting to jumpstart and reopen our economy with the next phase. While this phase doesn’t mean we’re going back to the way things were, nor are we out of the woods, it does mean that by maintaining social distancing, washing our hands, and continuing to wear facial coverings, we will see the reopening of many businesses.
Unfortunately, life, as we have known it, will not return until mass testing increases, digital contact tracing becomes refined, a vaccine is developed, or a cure is found. Each one of these processes is integral and each is a building block towards mitigating future outbreaks.
Currently, Colorado has the ability to run between 5 and 10 thousand tests a day. With a statewide population of almost 6 million people, about 50% of us could be tested within one year and perhaps everyone within the next two years. Obviously, we need to do better — sooner. We need to double these figures to more adequately contain a new outbreak.
Perhaps one of our greatest challenges moving forward is going to be imported cases and asymptomatic transmission. Those people who show no symptoms but can still pass the virus on transmission to others will be one of our greatest challenges and hurdles.
Here in our mountain communities, imported cases is going to pose not only an imminent threat to the safety and well-being of our communities but also to our economies. As we are a location and economy that has a foundation based on tourism, we must create an environment that conveys safety.
Our priority must be to create a safe harbor where locals and visitors alike feel confident that their health, safety, and well-being is of the utmost priority. This virus is not going away anytime soon. We must be prepared for the long-term impacts.
It should be at the forefront for every one of us that the ramifications of this pandemic and how we come out of this is the real challenge. While we may currently see a light at the end of the tunnel and therefore feel we can breathe a sigh of relief, we must remain vigilant. Our personal responsibility is as important as public policy. We must not be cavalier about how we move forward. The economic, social, and well-being of our communities and county depend on what we choose to do to mitigate an outbreak later this summer and fall.
As a community and nation, we must put political differences aside. The challenges ahead affect each one of us as human beings. We will only succeed in saving the lives of ourselves, our family, and our friends if we can face this threat together with a united front.
We have very real and difficult decisions to make looking forward. Unless we want to return to a life of stay-at-home orders or watch our loved ones die, we must make short- and long-term sacrifices. We must commit to a daily regimen of social distancing and safety precautions. We must accept the reality that we are all in this together.
As our economy reopens, please do not be impetuous and come out of the gates running at full force. While a desire to reconnect socially and refill our coffers is important, do not be short-sighted. Only a well-planned, cautious, and methodical approach will carry us forward.